Some records are intrinsically linked to a corner of the world, a country, a city – if you’ve ever sat on a bus lurching across Manchester with The Smiths playing through your headphones or sped through London on the tube listening to Blur you’ll know what I mean. Well, Tom Emlyn’s second album drips with the spirit of Swansea. The cover art depicting Tom’s great-grandfather working on the docks railway in the 1920s sets the scene with the songwriter carrying the troubadour torch through to the present day with a collection of lo-fi folk songs spinning tales of the city’s turbulent life, history and cast of intriguing characters.
Remarkably, ‘I’ve Seen You In Town’ is both the second album of Emlyn’s career to date, as well as the second album he’s put out this year. Even more remarkable is the major difference between both works, May’s ‘News From Nowhere’ crammed full of upbeat and jaunty psychedelia where ‘I’ve Seen You In Town’ is brimming with hushed pretty, witty tunes paying tribute to the ghosts of Abertawe.
Some of the stories could be told about anywhere, fleeting love, the passing of time, but when they’re told amongst ‘We Know Who You Are’, where the “Factory lizards kept the score”, ‘Strange Days’ telling “The shops were all shut and boarded up, the trees stood around in the wind”, walking in Uplands on an autumn day in ‘Under The Weather’, it makes complete sense that those heartfelt stories take place in Swansea. Emlyn’s songwriting shines out as his expressive lyrics careen into the realms of poetry, equal parts sentiment and humour, over little more than acoustic guitar with the occasional fragment of piano and organ.
The album’s lynchpin, ‘The Ballad Of Tea Cosy Pete’, is an ardent, fingerpicked hymn to a local vagabond, standing in Castle Square, now forever immortalised in song, released as a single to raise money for Llamau homelessness charity, which is then followed up by a gorgeous and nostalgic instrumental named after ‘Waunarlwydd’ village that falls within the city’s boundaries. If you’ve never been to Swansea before, thanks to Tom Emlyn, now you’ll at least have a warm-hearted insight into how the city feels.
‘The Ballad of Tea Cosy Pete’ was released on 23rd September 2022 through bandcamp and is still available to buy now backed with exclusive b-side ‘Pigeon’, with all proceeds going to Llamau homelessness charity.
‘I’ve Seen You In Town’ is also available to buy on bandcamp, with a few copies of the strictly limited edition cassette tape remaining to purchase. The LP is also streamable on streaming platforms now.
You can see the video of the lead single ‘Leaving Tomorrow’ below: